July 2009

A brief review of a book for dour, depressed kids


For a short time I worked in the Kids Books section of my bookstore, and I found a few favorites.

If you, like me, have a young relative moving through the picture books stage of their lives, I’d like to suggest you get them a copy of Shaun Tan’s book The Red Tree. I’ve never really seen a picture book like it.

The illustrations (like the one above) are quite beautiful. That’s not unique, though. The images are surreal and well-crafted. Nothing unique there. The text is simple and direct. Again, lots of books like that for young people.

What makes the book stand out is that it suggests something you rarely see a book for kids suggest. It suggests that life is hard, and sometimes very dark, and sometimes you—young reader—are going to feel bad. You are going to get depressed. You are going to have a hard time getting over some things. And this, too is not unfamiliar.

But this is what it says about being sad: it’s okay. It’s okay to feel bad.

Not tomorrow will be a better day. There is always hope. Every cloud has a silver lining. Not it’s always darkest just before the dawn.

Just, sometimes its dark. You are allowed to notice that it is dark.

You have no idea how long it took me to learn that. Years. Years and years. That someone was brave enough to put that message in a picture book makes me very happy.

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July 30th, 2009 / 7:10 pm

I have heard this sentiment used a bunch of times (not necessarily about me).  Something like, “you can tell a young person wrote this” or “this was handled in a young way” or “this is the type of thing a young person would write.”  What is meant by this? I don’t mean young topics or stories about young people, I mean stylistically or tonally or whatever, what makes something young?  Is it bad?  Wtf urrybody?

So, you sit down and you write something. And you write for a while. And you get to a certain point and you think you’re done because you have finished a “story.” How do you know? (You, readers/writers.) What’s a story?

Best American Poetry blog has recently been having authors share their favorite book covers, so far including Nick Flynn and Don Share, today is Jesse Ball.

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Thomas Pynchon’s LA is growing as people contribute their own annotations — and while I’m on the subject of him, you think “Smells Like Teen Spirit” got its hook from a Pynchon song? And is this funny or cruel?

Story by Story: Brian Evenson’s Fugue State (14) ‘Helpful’


Fourteenth in the order of stories in Brian Evenson’s Fugue State (out now from Coffee House Press) is ‘Helpful,’ which originally appeared in Bombay Gin.

At this point in the collection, we have looped through loops of cold expanse and careful molding, each rendered in Evenson’s clean, calm and deadly sentences, most as blank as any stroke of light in a Kenneth Anger film, any globe of far off light.

Here, having crossed over the threshold of those gone rooms, and entered the center of the void via Evenson’s masterful arrangement of the stories so far, the frame of the lenses, like in Anger’s opus Invocation of My Demon Brother, begins to split.



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July 30th, 2009 / 12:41 pm

What’s better than a book-themed cafe? An island.


So the plan for today was to take the 1pm ferry from Central HK to Lamma Island, so I could check out the Bookworm Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant and supposed literary haunt. I planned to spend most of the afternoon there, and so went out loaded for bear- Joshua Cohen’s A Heaven of Others, the Selected Poems of George Oppen, Bruno Schulz’s Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, and some of my own stuff to maybe work on. So I actually manage to finish Cohen’s book–which I’ve been rocking through and loving for the past week–on the ferry ride over, then I get to the pier at Yung Shue Wan, and lo and behold, the bookstore is closed. No explanation why. Some woman says it’ll be open tomorrow–for all the good that does me, assuming it’s even true. Now what? Well, it turns out that this island I’m on is, like, an island, with all the things you’d expect to find on an island, such as beaches, woods, mountains, ancient burial sites, and a seaside trail that leads you through all of it. So me, Josh, George, and Bruno hiked from Yung Shue Wan to the other main village, Sok Kwu Wan. It was listed as a 90-minute hike, but I got up to some quality dithering, so it took me longer. Then at SKW I took repast of iced milk tea+coffee followed by a bowl of shrimp dumplings in soup, all in time to catch the 4:05 ferry back to Central. All in all, a stellar day, though it wasn’t exactly a victory for books. Maybe this is something books should think about next time before they fuck with me. To see about two dozen more pictures of my day-trip, with nary a book in sight, click the sentence above or else right here.

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July 30th, 2009 / 9:26 am

I cannot recommend this enough:  an interview with Bob Dylan.

Northwesterners Special Alert: Wave Books Weekend

Would you ride this mans bus? And how!

Would you ride this man's bus? And how!

I think this event sounds incredible, and since it’s from the people who put on the Poetry Bus Tour in ’06, you can expect it to meet, greet & beat expectations. It’s like the Warped Tour decided to become the Pitchfork Festival or something. Or like poetry-Lollapalooza decided to do what real Lollapalooza did. Anyway, here’s some of what you can expect if you hit the University of Washington, Aug 14 – 16. For info on pricing and a more detailed schedule, check the Wave site. Word is there are only 150 tickets to be sold, and a limited number of daypasses, so if you live up that-a-way and are interested, better get cracking.

READINGS — in the Henry Auditorium, with smaller, exclusive readings in the James Turrell Skyspacefeaturing Joshua Beckman, Noelle Kocot, Dorothea Lasky, Anthony McCann, Richard Meier, Eileen Myles, Maggie Nelson, Geoffrey Nutter, Matthew Rohrer, Mary Ruefle, Dara Wier, Jon Woodward, Matthew Zapruder and Rachel Zucker;

SCREENINGS OF FILMS starring John Ashbery, Robin Blaser, Jane Freilicher, Denise Levertov, Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, John Wieners, and others;

poetry book DISCOUNTS at fourteen participating local, independent bookstores (a map will be provided);

a BOOK ARTS PRESENTATION by Sandra Kroupa, the Book Arts and Rare Book Curator in Special Collections at the University of Washington;

the Henry Art Gallery and EXHIBITIONS, including exhibitions of work by Chio Aoshima, Jasper Johns, Ann Lislegaard, Jeffry Mitchell & Tivon Rice; new video from China; and photographic work by Imogen Cunningham, Nan Goldin, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Andy Warhol, and others, from the Henry’s permanent collection;

and more, to be discovered…

Presses / 1 Comment
July 29th, 2009 / 8:46 pm